Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has broken his self-imposed media ban – and praised Arsenal as genuine contenders for the Premier League title.
Ferguson hasn’t spoken to the English press for a week after he was charged by the FA over remarks made about the referee in the recent defeat at Chelsea.
United are now just three points clear of Arsenal – with a game more played – following Sunday’s controversial loss at Liverpool.
Now Ferguson has admitted that Arsene Wenger’s side are now real live contenders for the EPL crown once again.
Speaking ahead of the FA Cup quarter-final clash with the Gunners on Saturday, Ferguson said: “Last season Arsenal faded around the February to March period to leave Chelsea and ourselves in a two-horse race that saw us pipped at the post by a point.
“I think most pundits expected to see something similar this season, plus a challenge from Spurs and Manchester City to make it even more difficult for Arsenal to get back up to the top.
“But Arsene Wenger and his players have rearranged the pecking order somewhat to come storming through to lie in second place.
“Clearly they represent the main danger to us achieving our ambitions in a revival of the rivalry of a few years ago, and I am sure they regard us as the major threat to their hopes.”
Ferguson also broke his silence on the Liverpool defeat when a tackle by Jamie Carragher effectively ruled Nani out for the rest of the season.
“I have no excuses for the poor performance at Liverpool, who were the better team and deserved their win,” added Ferguson.
“I was disappointed because we didn’t perform to the level I expect and which, to be fair, we generally achieve.”
England defender Rio Ferdinand has claimed that referee Massimo Busacca is the best ref in the world – despite his dismissal of Arsenal striker Robin Van Persie in the Champions League defeat at Barcelona on Tuesday night.
Spanish side Atletico Madrid have reportedly offered strikers Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero to Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp in a combined £40million deal.
French full-back Gael Clichy has again warned Arsenal he could leave in the summer after talks on a new contract broke down.
Newcastle United want to keep Irish midfielder Stephen Ireland when his loan deal from Aston Villa ends in the summer.
Sunderland have again denied claims they will need to sell star players Asamoah Gyan and midfielder Jordan Henderson despite interest from Manchester United and Chelsea.
Stoke want Aston Villa’s England defender Stephen Warnock.
Bolton winger Danny Ward is wanted on loan by Huddersfield Town.
Everton’s Mikel Arteta could be out for a month with a hamstring injury picked up in the 1-1 EPL draw with Birmingham on Wednesday night.
Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko has admitted that he idolized Europa League opponent Andriy Shevchenko as a child. City play Shevchenko’s Dynamo Kiev on Thursday night.
Steven Gerrard is out of Liverpool’s Europa League clash with Braga on Thursday night but Andy Carroll is set to feature.
Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has handed boss Roberto Martinez the dreaded vote of confidence.
Sunderland keeper Craig Gordon is hoping to avoid surgery on his injured knee.